Cold burn injuries in the UK: The 11-year experience of a tertiary burns centre

Metin Nizamoglu, Alethea Tan, Tobias Vickers, Nicholas Segaren, David Barnes, Peter Dziewulski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Guidance for the management of thermal injuries has evolved with improved understanding of burn pathophysiology. Guidance for the management of cold burn injuries is not widely available. The management of these burns differs from the standard management of thermal injuries. This study aimed to review the etiology and management of all cold burns presenting to a large regional burn centre in the UK and to provide a simplified management pathway for cold burns. Methods: An 11-year retrospective analysis (1 January 2003-31 December 2014) of all cold injuries presenting to a regional burns centre in the UK was conducted. Patient case notes were reviewed for injury mechanism, first aid administered, treatment outcomes and time to healing. An anonymized nationwide survey on aspects of management of cold burns was disseminated between 13 July 2015-5 October 2015 to British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) and Plastic Surgery Trainees Association (PLASTA) members in the UK. Electronic searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library were performed to identify relevant literature to provide evidence for a management pathway for cold burn injuries. Results: Twenty-three patients were identified. Age range was 8 months-69 years. Total body surface area (TBSA) burn ranged from 0.25 to 5 %. Twenty cases involved peripheral limbs. Seventeen (73.9 %)cases were accidental, with the remaining six (26.1 %) cases being deliberate self-inflicted injuries. Only eight patients received first aid. All except one patient were managed conservatively. One case required skin graft application due to delayed healing. We received 52 responses from a total of 200 questionaires. Ninety percent of responders think clearer guidelines should exist. We present a simplified management pathway based on evidence identified in our literature search. Conclusions: Cold burns are uncommon in comparison to other types of burn injuries. In the UK, a disproportionate number of cold burn injuries are deliberately self-inflicted, especially in the younger patient population. Our findings reflect a gap in clinical knowledge and experience. We proposed a simplified management pathway for managing cold burn injuries, consisting of adequate first aid using warm water, oral prostaglandin inhibitors, deroofing of blisters and topical antithromboxane therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number36
JournalBurns and Trauma
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cold burn
  • Guideline
  • Survey
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Surgery
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Dermatology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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